Judging my material choice! Please help me getting better!

Ugo

Mame
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Hi everyone!

Just so we are on the same page I started bonsai more seriously a year and a half ago.

My short terms objectives: Learn how to make my trees survive, provide basic care and maintenance while learning the When and Why for each species I own.

I think things are doing well, my more advanced material has gain alot of positive points (From my understanding!) and the younger material seems to be in perfect health with a lot of vigor and possibilities.

Today was a new "test" for me.
I went alone to a bonsai nursery to choose my own material. Thanks to the owner Yves from Bonsai ENR for letting me lurking around for few hours!!
Where I live there's not much beginners! Most are advanced hobbyist or pros with 20 years of experience that are not used to give advises on new choosing material as they already know the person knows which one to choose! And they mostly work on way more advanced material!
Its time for me to fly out the nest and know why I'm choosing this material over another piece.


I wanted another Acer Palmatum (Its a classic but I fell in love with them...) I also wanted to experience with a tree that I found really interesting: a Larch.
Obviously I could not leave without a small Azalea that if I judge by the mother tree will survive with winter protection in Zone 5A!
I chosen theses trees with the best of my knowledge.
With this post I would like to tell you know why I chosen theses specific piece and I would like you guys to validate my decisions or on the other hand why the subject should have been avoided... Just to see if Im on the right path of choosing nursery material like a more advanced amateur!

First the Larch

This tree has an interesting yet classic trunk movement
20220322_165724.jpg

Here's the reason why I chose it.
Second branch will need to be kept in proportion
modified 20220322_165724.jpg.png

Back of the tree: You can see the buds that will form the 3rd back branche
20220322_165832.jpg



Im a fan of maples... Probably because I come from Canada!
I own a few different variety: Bloodgood, Deshojo, Sango Kaku, Yuki Hime but I was in need of a Katsura!

First reason I choosed it the trunk movement was not bad
20220322_165617.jpg

Chose that one for the following reasons

-Low sacrificial branch growing
20220322_165625.jpg

Lot of options for bottom branches if I want to go that way
20220322_165711.jpg


Possibility of first branch or a new apex, that will depend on the size of the leaf
20220322_165642.jpg


And finally the Azalea.....
Just because I want one as they are beautiful!...
I do have a lot of reading to do but for the price this is a simple test to see if it can survive the winter in my cold layer storage.
I've read only the basics so far, and I think I will be up to the task!

Interresting trunk movement / Choosen front at this time

Wiring/Basic Pruning will be done after flowering
20220322_165909.jpg
20220322_170008.jpg


Thanks for your constructive comments!
Ugo
 

Potawatomi13

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To begin you have plants/trees living things, NOT material! Next all are possessed of endless possibilities like new born baby;). All depends on how cared for and trained. First TREE Larch very formulaic/boring/uninteresting needs trunk development, imaginative creativity to become wonderful Bonsai in 20-30 years. Others a blank slate presently.
 

JEads

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Hey Ugo

I assume that all of these trees are 8-12" tall by the photos. the biggest issue that see with them is that they do not have much in the way of taper. The larch is not too bad, but the maple will need some help. Typically taper is built by growing it out, and then cutting it back to a lower branch. For example, on the maple, you might consider growing it hard for a few years and then cutting it down to the "sacrificial" branch that you pointed out. That branch would then become the new trunk line and you continue the process. It is hard to tell how low that branch is from the photos, so you might choose one further up the trunk, but the taper will never change unless you force it to. With deciduous material we (professionals in my circle) try to not make truck cuts that are larger than our thumb so that they can close quickly and heal without scaring.
A few notes on the Larch: the deadwood feature is too small to reasonably survive in the wild (it would easily get broken off) so you should consider cutting it off now. The tree will abandon it at some point and attempt to heal around it.
Typically "we" do not grow low branches that are purely sacrificial. They tend to create trunk scaring and do not do much for the tree in the long run. It is better to grow the actual branches on the lower part of the trunk long and strong and make the ends of those sacrificial. An apex escape branch is helpful for that also. So if you imagine that each branch is left to grow 10x as long as you want them to ultimately be, but you work hard to keep the interior foliage intact, you can cut the branches back to the finer foliage once the branch is the proper girth and the trunk has grown and gotten taper. Jonas has some great write ups on the subject:

So, all that being said, here are my ideas for taking these trees forward:
Larch: grow all the branches and the apex long and hard, except the one that you pointed out as getting too strong. Cut them back as they get to be proportional in girth. Work to keep inner growth alive and strong. Once they are the right size, start cutting the branches to get movement and bifurcation.
Maple: grow it out strong as well, but plan on trunk chopping back to one of the lower branches for movement and taper.
Azalea: Keep growing it strong and possibly add wire to bend the trunk above where the movement stops. you can also cut and grow the trunk, like was done before to it.

I do not want to come across as critical of your decisions and I really do not want to discourage you from digging deeper into bonsai and discovering the wonderful things in here. Stay connected in bnut and reach out to local practitioners to expand your knowledge.
 
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sorce

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I think our largest setback as humans, is the attraction to what we can see, which prevents us from considering what we can't.

What do the roots look like?

For me, the success of a nursery hunting trip can be assessed by the amount of dirt under ones fingernails at the checkout counter.
The success of ones collection can be assessed by counting the number of times they drove home with nothing BUT dirty fingernails.

1 of 100. Or less. I would expect to find something worthy of a hundred plants.
The only time I've found something worthy before looking through 100 is when there are 300 present.

I prefer to do NOTHING while waiting to find these. By the end of 5 years when I find them, I'll have done no watering, no root grafting, no repotting, no worrying, and have the same quality tree as the person who did all that for 5 years.
That's a trade off I can live with!

Time is Pretend. TIP!

That also means everything has potential.
Grafting exists, so Everything has Potential.

The difference is the Anti-Potential, things that will work against PPB, or the practice of keeping Potential Problems at Bay. (Still shout GaryWood for that nugget)

Good material is found within this balance of Potential and Anti-Potential.

A study of the trees past reveals Anti-Potential, things we must prevent moving forward.

The Larch, has Anti-Potential in that large, cut short branch that ruined that segments taper.
Slight Anti-Potential in that it has no lower upward pointing tips for a Plan B apex.

The Maple has Anti-Potential, like most Maples, in it's collar budding habit.

The Azalea, has Anti-Potential, in that there are no branches where the first movement is.

This is Anti-Potential I can live with. Though I think if you searched with more patience, you could have found things slightly better.

But year 1.5 ain't the time for that shit! It's the time to do all that watrin', n graftin', repottin', n killing stuff!

That's how we build our...."chops", and find out what we are willing to do during that 5 year wait. Find out what Anti-Potential our personal skillset is best at overcoming.

For year 1.5, I reckon you are at like a 7/10.
Not bad.

Sorce
 

Ugo

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Hi!

To begin with thanks again for your help!

Potawatomi13 I would like to clarify a point before I begin:
To begin you have plants/trees living things, NOT material! Next all are possessed of endless possibilities like new born baby;). All depends on how cared for and trained. First TREE Larch very formulaic/boring/uninteresting needs trunk development, imaginative creativity to become wonderful Bonsai in 20-30 years. Others a blank slate presently.

Yes you are absolutely right, I should have used the word tree! I assure you, me using the word material is by no means disrespectful but it is more due to the fact that I now have tendency to judge trees on their aesthetic, its a like a bad habits I got since a couple months now...
On the other hand Its a pleasure for me to learn the "why" behind the reason when talking about trees. I could buy expensive material, get the tree care carried out by someone else but that's not for me
I always had a total respectful relation with nature since a young age, a tree for me shouldn't have a price and this living organism is for me a kind of point between science and "magic".
Its hard to explain but that the way I see it... There is no way I would disrespect that. Sorry about the misunderstanding.

I totally agree both Maple and the Azalea are blank page, the only thing I can 'look' at is the final size judging by the size of the leafs.

Thanks again for your advises!



@JEads
Hi!
I assume that all of these trees are 8-12" tall by the photos
They are smaller than that only the larch measure 8in the 2 other measure 4.5in tall.

The larch is not too bad, but the maple will need some help. Typically taper is built by growing it out, and then cutting it back to a lower branch. For example, on the maple, you might consider growing it hard for a few years and then cutting it down to the "sacrificial" branch that you pointed out. That branch would then become the new trunk line and you continue the process. It is hard to tell how low that branch is from the photos, so you might choose one further up the trunk, but the taper will never change unless you force it to. With deciduous material we (professionals in my circle) try to not make truck cuts that are larger than our thumb so that they can close quickly and heal without scaring.
A few notes on the Larch: the deadwood feature is too small to reasonably survive in the wild (it would easily get broken off) so you should consider cutting it off now. The tree will abandon it at some point and attempt to heal around it.
Typically "we" do not grow low branches that are purely sacrificial. They tend to create trunk scaring and do not do much for the tree in the long run. It is better to grow the actual branches on the lower part of the trunk long and strong and make the ends of those sacrificial. An apex escape branch is helpful for that also. So if you imagine that each branch is left to grow 10x as long as you want them to ultimately be, but you work hard to keep the interior foliage intact, you can cut the branches back to the finer foliage once the branch is the proper girth and the trunk has grown and gotten taper. Jonas has some great write ups on the subject:
So, all that being said, here are my ideas for taking these trees forward:
Larch: grow all the branches and the apex long and hard, except the one that you pointed out as getting too strong. Cut them back as they get to be proportional in girth. Work to keep inner growth alive and strong. Once they are the right size, start cutting the branches to get movement and bifurcation.
Maple: grow it out strong as well, but plan on trunk chopping back to one of the lower branches for movement and taper.
Azalea: Keep growing it strong and possibly add wire to bend the trunk above where the movement stops. you can also cut and grow the trunk, like was done before to it.

I do not want to come across as critical of your decisions and I really do not want to discourage you from digging deeper into bonsai and discovering the wonderful things in here. Stay connected in bnut and reach out to local practitioners to expand your knowledge.
Thank you for this!!!!


-------------------------------------------------------------

Hi Sorce!

The difference is the Anti-Potential, things that will work against PPB, or the practice of keeping Potential Problems at Bay.

Good material is found within this balance of Potential and Anti-Potential.
Thank you for this, I wont forge this one.

To tell you a bit more..
I did look at the roots ,I did slip the trees out of their pots that day before asking if theses trees had a recent repot, non of the pots were full of roots so I estimate none repotting needed for this year.
The azalea, doesn't seems to need it for this year as the pot is not full but I didn't disturbed the root ball more then needed.
And the Larch I did took it out the pot and I've seen healthy roots but the pot is not full, I've also looked at the base but without digging too much... I'm I too shy while looking?!


The Maple has Anti-Potential, like most Maples, in it's collar budding habit.
1- The maple is about measure 4.5in total
The very first branch is at about 3/4in from the nebari
I thought seeing all theses branches at the bottom growing on the trunk close nodes was an advantage especially for a shohin bonsai and my Plan B was to use the full height of the tree.
20220324_014716.jpg
20220324_014647.jpg


2-
The Larch, has Anti-Potential in that large, cut short branch that ruined that segments taper.
Slight Anti-Potential in that it has no lower upward pointing tips for a Plan B apex
The larch is at 8in tall
Here's a very bad photo that show a bit more of the nebari
When I imagine a larch I always see a straight and compact tree with branches going downwards can I call that a more classic style...
When I saw this one I seen an 10in three fully ramified.... the bad point is really that second branches.
20220324_003306.jpg



he Azalea, has Anti-Potential, in that there are no branches where the first movement is.
3- For the Azalea that's as far I went to see the nebari
My understanding of this species is that it can be reduced heavily and backbud quite easily

20220324_004120.jpg

But year 1.5 ain't the time for that shit! It's the time to do all that watrin', n graftin', repottin', n killing stuff! That's how we build our...."chops", and find out what we are willing to do during that 5 year wait. Find out what Anti-Potential our personal skillset is best at overcoming. For year 1.5, I reckon you are at like a 7/10. Not bad.

You are right! I still had fun doing it and Its really important to me to learn through every process!
Mind you theses trees have been selected in relation with my actual experience.. I miggt laugh from theses choices in a few years!
but for now Im convice they work working on!

thanks for the 7/10!! Ahhaha

Thanks again for your help everyone!
 

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